Does self-help work?

Many people will engage in a period of self-help before they will consider calling for a therapy appointment.
Sometimes self-help works well and sometimes it is actually harmful. The current estimate is that about 5% of people who engage in self-help endeavors end up being harmed by them. The greatest harm is done because of the following:

1. Unrealistic expectations that do not function as promised. The best-seller “The Secret” could easily encourage someone to believe that all you have to do is visualize and it will come true. A positive vision is necessary but not sufficient by itself to produce results. It is only one of many factors that contribute to success.

2. The high cost of some self-help programs can lead you to spend excessively and create more stress. Read a book called “Helping Me Help Myself” to hear one writer’s experiences of seeking help over the course of a year and the costs of these programs. If you are going into debt for self-help you can end up in a difficult situation. If your resources are limited, stick to proven methods.

3. Most of my patients who come to therapy after a period of attempts at self-help have self-diagnosed and are working on the wrong problem with the wrong methods. Sexual problems are especially likely to create confusion and the majority of sexual help products and sexual advice is just incorrect ( such as:” Have a drink and relax and everything will be fine”).

The only self-help that I encourage is reading books. The cost is reasonable and learning, thinking and contemplating your problems is likely to be of benefit to you, even if it is not the whole solution. If you would like a list of the current self help books I recommend, please feel free to email me and ask for my annotated bibliography.